A FORMER Harrow Way pupil has beaten all odds to be named as an undergraduate of the year in a national competition.

Luke Collinson is in the first year of a five-year engineering degree at The University of Manchester and has been honoured as Construction and Engineering Undergraduate of the Year at the TARGETjobs Awards.

At 15 Luke had been unable to go to school for years because of family problems and shortly afterwards he was taken into care. He went on to achieve A-levels in maths, physics and chemistry, while living alone.

“It feels surreal.” Luke said. “I’m not usually someone who wins awards. I’m not the most intelligent, best at grades or historically the best student but I think I have a unique skillset that my upbringing in the care system has given me that gave me a competitive edge.”

Reaching the final is a huge achievement for the student finalists and particularly for Luke as only six per cent of care leavers in the UK enrol at university, compared with 50 per cent for the general population.

The 20-year-old said: “Personally, it has really helped with my self-confidence, I feel so proud of myself to have won an award so early on in my academic career. For people like me from the background I’ve come from we don’t usually get to university, let alone win awards, so it’s so amazing to have people believe in me and has given me the motivation to apply for other awards and make the very most of my time at university.”

Luke has also struggled with mental health issues, which he says makes his achievement even greater.

He said: “Mental health is something I only really considered was a big part of my life when it got to a point around Christmas and I was on my own in my halls of residence. I have taken this first year as a massive learning curve and am a much better person for it. I think the mental health team at the university are absolutely amazing and are honestly lifesaving.”

Not only did Luke win an iPad and a trophy, which currently sits in his room, he has also secured a full summer internship at construction company Laing O’Rourke.

“Unlike most care leavers I’ve had two amazing sisters who both had to overcome extreme family hardship who have helped carve the way for me to get here,” Luke said.

“They both went to Manchester and are now exceptionally successful; one being a barrister and the other a fully qualified doctor. I’m so immensely proud of them and they inspire me to keep going no matter what.”

He added: “My plans post-graduation depend on Brexit. If Brexit happens I’ll move over to Dubai and work for a big company and not pay taxes.

“If Brexit doesn’t happen I’ll stay here and hopefully work for a big company. Suffice to say at the moment I’m just trying to make myself as employable as possible by taking lots of electives, courses and work experience so when I do graduate I’ll have the top pick of jobs available.”

The national competition received 4,542 entries from 138 different universities across the UK.